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The art of writing a speech

Writing a good speech is an art. As a speaker or speech writer, your goal is to create a message that captures mind, body, spirit, and leaves the audience craving more.

When crafting a memorable speech, you must consider two objectives:

  1. Make a good impression
  2. Teach the audience at least one new thing

Everything else is entertainment. Here are ten points that are proven to steal the show…and keep them talking about you for a long time.

Grab Attention:

Many speakers begin with lengthy acknowledgements, but it’s better to come out swinging! In his world­ famous commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs began: “I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation.” Now that’s an opening that folks are still talking about today!

Get to the Point

Once you have the attention of the audience with a strong opening, don’t waste time with useless talk. Get right to the point. Keep the momentum going with subject matter that means something to your audience. Things can go downhill quickly when you find yourself on tangents that lead nowhere.

Tone Is Everything

Do some homework. It is very important to know your audience. What do they want? Why are they there? Whether you are there to teach, inform, motivate, or entertain, you must begin with the right tone. For example, someone speaking about the importance of meditation could stand in front of your audience in complete silence, look out at the group, and scan the room for some time, then say, “Hear that? That is the sound of serenity.” This will certainly set a memorable and captivating tone.

Be True to Yourself

Your audience will only connect with you if you truly believe in your message, so make sure that your delivery is appropriate to you, your audience, and the subject. Things like body language, word choice, and sensibilities will define your success. Speak conversationally as if you know the group; this will put them at ease and gain their trust. For example, reference your family, or even your pet dog to establish trust and make an invaluable personal connection.

Repeat Yourself.​ Repeat Yourself.

Repetition is key to facilitating a strong message. You might think it annoying to your audience, but it’s important to reinforce your point or subject as much as you can. There’s a rhythm to repetition. If you’re strategic (and you should be) about where you repeat key words and phrases, your speech can be almost poetic.

Make it Fun

You never can go wrong incorporating a certain amount of fun into your speech. Laughter makes the heart grow fonder, especially if you are standing in front of an unfamiliar audience. When humor is not appropriate, be sure to bring your speech home with a positive message. But don’t overdo it!

Use Transitional Phrases

Many times audiences don’t know what is important. Use transitional phrases to let them know that something is noteworthy. For example, ask the question, “Why does this matter?”­ and then pause… because pausing implies significance. Similarly, phrases like, “So, my point is…” or, “Ask yourself this…” are triggers to prompt the audience to think.

Be Dramatic

​Public speaking is a live performance, for which you must create a scene, embellish, and use live props. The challenge for every speaker is to give a message that will remain in the hearts and minds of his or her audience. To that end, use visuals not only to inform, but also to excite your audience. Take some chances; be memorable. Jack Canfield once said, “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”

Keep It Short

​After you have won them over with a brilliant opening, your audience might begin to wander into never­never land…it’s human nature. You’re on borrowed time, so use it wisely. Long­winded tangents that go nowhere, create a snooze­fest territory.

End Strong:

Your ending is what they will talk about when they walk out the door, so end strong! There are several ways to do this: tell a great story that brings it full circle, retell your thesis (the subject of your speech), and dramatize your point by applying it to a real life situation.

If you incorporate some or all of these points into your next speech, you will make a difference in how your message is received. That’s the goal. If you can move your audience AND motivate them to take action once they leave the room, you truly have command of the written and spoken word.

This material was originally created by Dawn Herscher of BNI Pacific Coast and posted to Successnet

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The art of writing a speech

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